It is not uncommon (especially in recent days) to hear someone make a public statement that includes comments along the lines of “I just couldn’t stay silent any longer.”
One of the tactics used to encourage others to chime in and voice their support for the issue at hand is the accusation that to remain silent is to be “on the wrong side of history” . . . that silence is tacit approval of the “evil” being denounced. There are two famous quotes to this effect, one misattributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer (“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”)1, and another misattributed to Edmund Burke (“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”)2.
Not-Bonhoeffer and Not-Burke are right that staying on the sidelines is not an option. Silence cannot be equated with neutrality. Declining to publicly proclaim your stance on a particular issue or conflict does not mean that you are not “helping” one side or the other. The question is, which side is bolstered by your silence?
If you don’t make it a point to say #BlackLivesMatter, does that mean you’re okay with racism?
If you don’t object to the #BLM movement, is that an indication that you’re okay with Critical Race Theory and Marxist ideology?
If you refuse to put a rainbow on your profile pic, does that mean you’re a homophobic bigot?
If you don’t speak up against gay marriage, does that mean you’re on-board with allowing the sexual revolution to continue unabated?
Depending on the situation, your silence could benefit either side of these divisive issues. It requires wisdom and insight to recognize whose side will benefit the most from your silence. The answer to that question may well depend on the context of your situation, who the audience is, what type of platform you have, etc. However, do not mistake silence for neutrality.
On two occasions, Jesus addressed the actions and attitudes of those who were not his followers. Despite not being his followers, neither group was neutral. In one case he claimed them as allies (Mark 9:40 – “the one who is not against us is for us”), whereas in the other case he proclaimed them to be his adversaries (Matthew 12:30 – “whoever is not with me is against me”).
The determining factor was not based on their issuance of a public statement proclaiming their affiliation with Jesus or their opposition to Jesus. Neither was their “side” determined by their failure to issue a public statement declaring themselves for or against Jesus. Instead, it was their actions and attitudes that made the difference.
What actions and attitudes are you putting on display? Are you furthering the cause of Jesus or the world?